5 Tips for building buy-in to
Digital Accessibility

Too often I meet someone who really ‘gets it’ with digital accessibility but struggles to get the resources and the rest of the organisation behind them. They come to us asking what can they do with the meagre resources they have. It’s like having the desire to climb Ben Nevis in Scotland, but only have enough to buy some flip-flops.

On the other hand, we have worked with Accessibility Leads who have teams around them and are making it a core, non-negotiable part of every product. When our CEO, Jonathan Hassell, was leading accessibility at the BBC, he was able to drive behavioural change in the teams creating digital products like iPlayer and explore the possibilities of innovation that supports all.

So how might we get the buy-in across our organisations and get the resources to do this properly? John Kotter, professor at Harvard University, has some clear steps to address any corporate change, and we‘ve distilled them into 5 tips around digital accessibility.

1. Be clear on why you are doing this

The benefits of digital accessibility are different for every organisation – of the many benefits there might be two or three that really resonate where you work. If your organisation is a signatory of the Valuable 500,  you can cite the support of senior leadership to including disability in diversity. For public sector organisations, it might be about reaching all citizens. For a financial services business, it might be around handling customer service well, without resorting to expensive non-digital channels. For retailers it might be around maximising purchases that get through checkout or preventing litigation. For marketing agencies, it might be around upholding brand reputation and reaching more people with the campaigns you create for clients.

Finding the right message is key to raising awareness of the possibilities. Our Benefits Workshop is a great way to do this – bringing senior stakeholders together, and distilling the benefits into the ones that make sense for the team.

What benefits do you think would resonate with your leadership team?

2. Find the stories that make it real

Talking about the fact that 20% of the population might need adjustments at any time, is quite theoretical, but taking this into stories makes a difference. For example, one of our clients has a couple of the senior leadership who have red/green colour deficiency – that means we can talk meaningfully about their needs for good visuals and graphs, and the fact that there will be customers with that need too. The changes needed for accessibility are minor – e.g. making sure imagery is not reliant on colour alone to signify information – and the story makes the need real for everyone.

As part of our ISO benchmarking work, we often run a competitor analysis for our clients. Stories about what their competitors are doing in accessibility often has a galvanising effect on stakeholders. One client doubled their budget by showing how their resourcing of accessibility and the impact it was having compared to competitors.

Perhaps there are stories within your company that will make a difference?

3. Create a clear vision

Often, we see success coming from a slow, but long term, change. A quick burst of activity can allow those who resist to ignore the change. Over time people will be promoted, new joiners arrive, and contractors come in not knowing the history.

Some organisations use working towards best practice like the ISO standard 30071-1 as the directional banner. Others use legislation as the direction, and break things down into stepping-stones, to recognise there are many steps on the way to getting good, and it is not a one-time jolt.

You might not be senior enough to hold the vision, but anyone can set the story. Our vision is to help provide ‘access for everyone’ – and that drives us to help organisations become good at accessibility, and provide a range of self-service resources for those who cannot afford our support.

What’s the right vision for you?

4. Find the resources to do it well

What is your big audacious goal with this? What do you need to do this properly? Getting digital accessibility right, and getting it done efficiently, is as much about behavioural change as it is about following standards, like WCAG. Too often we see HR, or sales staff assume this is just the responsibility of developers. So, awareness, training and understanding your role in your organisation’s accessibility success takes time and effort. Creating policies and embedding it into governance takes commitment and intelligence.

So you might take a two pronged approach: quick wins to demonstrate what’s possible, and setting the expectation that every product should have the resources to do this properly. When colleagues get push-back and lack of funding, it often comes from not having the clear benefits and vision in place – accessibility just looks like an add-on or extra cost. The best way of finding resources might well be finding allies to support you do more than you can with your spare budget alone.

Who do you need to get around you to make this a success?

5. Make it personal and tangible

Finally, success breeds success. So, to make it tangible, consider looking at the products or teams that might make good candidates to win awards or tell stories. When we worked with Bequeathed and their supplier Tier 2 Consulting, to make their will writing service successful, it helped raise the profile of accessibility across both organisations – and they even became a finalist for the Digital SME of the Year by Digital Leaders as a result.

Many roles benefit from getting digital accessibility right – from customer service, sales, testing, support and others. When thinking about your plan, think about what each role gains from this – reputation, sales, efficiency, quality etc. This will help overcome resistance and deal with the challenge of being ‘too busy to add yet another thing’.

How could you celebrate your wins achieved through accessibility?

Where do I start?

How big is your vision for this? Can you get others to support you, and work together to get the resources to do this properly?

We believe there are two starting points:

  1. Finding the small answer to make a difference – which might be a benefits workshop, a two- hour snapshot audit, or specific training.
  2. Setting the bigger vision and ask – which might be taking our self-assessment scorecard to see the gaps, and running an external benchmark to shape your vision, and plan.

On our free membership area, HiHub, we have a number of resources to help organisations deliver digital accessibility, including the Buy-in Toolkit. This includes a benefits workbook to help you identify the benefits relevant to your organisation and a buy-in toolkit presentation with future tips and tools on how to build buy-in.

Our clients highly recommend it.

“We thought meeting standards was a compliance exercise … and then realised it benefits everything we do!” CTO, Marketing Agency

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